‘BEAT THE DEVIL’–TRAILER AND SET VISIT

I’ve long harbored the desire to travel back in time to visit certain specific movie sets, ones which were storied and special for various reasons.. ‘To Have and Have Not’ (the meeting of Bogie and Bacall), ‘The General’ (dumping that train into the drink), ‘Citizen Kane’ (enough said), ‘Casablanca’ (the general chaos of the script being written while the movie was being shot and somehow the whole thing turning into a masterpiece). Another big visit of mine would be to the set of ‘Beat The Devil’ (1954), which was photographed in Ravello, Italy, in 1953. The film is a witty, sly crime-movie send-up and was largely reviled in its day for reasons that are hard to figure out now. Like ‘Casablanca’, the movie was a project in development while it was being shot and, truthfully, it didn’t turn out to be nearly as coherent or satisfying a piece of work. But ‘Beat The Devil’s’ attributes lie in a different direction, chief among them a waywardly amusing script by Truman Capote (!) and actors such as Bogart, Gina Lollabrigida, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre, Robert Morely all clearly having way too good a time. Best of all the entire mess was overseen by John Huston. Can you imagine the sound of crashing egos during the drinking sessions after work in the hotel lobby overlooking the sea? (Apparently Capote and Bogart challenged each other to arm wrestling matches which Capote somehow always won). Lorre’s morphine addiction was already taking him over and I’m not sure how pretty that was to be around. The presence of Jennifer Jones means that her husband David O. Selznick must have also been present, slowing things down with script notes nobody paid attention to. And Bogie’s presence meant Bacall was there as well. It may well be the case that the weekends in the hotel (and the nights after shooting) were more amusing than the set. One way or another it shaped up as a nightmarishly fun location shoot. I haven’t seen ‘Beat The Devil’ in years but, from the looks of the above trailer, a brilliant 4K restoration has been recently done. Note also the new Columbia Pictures logo on the front and the somewhat jarring shiny new music track.

 

 

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